‘Thousands of Yemeni troops along Saudi Arabia’s border side with Hadi’
ADEN // The Yemeni commander of a vast military district covering half the country’s border with Saudi Arabia pledged support on Sunday to exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, local officials said.
The announcement puts at least 15,000 troops in the desert and mountain border area on the same side as Saudi Arabia, which backs Mr Hadi and has waged an inconclusive three-week bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen who are allied with Iran.
“Brigadier General Abdulrahman Al Halily of the First Military District announced today his support for constitutional legitimacy as represented by president Hadi,” one of the officials said.
The declaration was also broadcast on official radio in the city of Seiyun, the main city of the Hadramawt valley area where the district’s main military base is located.
Most of Yemen’s military is loyal to powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces are fighting alongside the Shiite Houthi militia in battles stretching across Yemen’s south and east.
But the defection of the northeastern troops brings to about 10 the number of divisions that back Mr Hadi. It may point to an increasing sense in the military that momentum favours the president, who resides in exile in Riyadh.
Mr Saleh’s political party said on Sunday that it welcomes a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in the country, urging all involved in the conflict to observe it.
In a statement issued on Sunday on its website, Mr Saleh’s General People’s Congress said that it would “respond positively” to the UN security council resolution issued last week. Pro-Saleh forces have been fighting alongside the Houthis.
“(The party) welcomes the UN secretary general’s call to for a ceasefire from all sides and a return to dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations,” it said. It added that it urged parties “inside and outside” the country to respond to the call.
The resolution demands that all Yemeni parties, especially the Houthis, end violence and return swiftly to UN-led peace talks aimed at a political transition. It makes no mention of the Saudi-led airstrikes targeting the rebels and pro-Saleh forces.
The combat intensified in late March when the Saudi-led coalition of majority Sunni countries began launching airstrikes against the rebels, who are battling forces loyal to Mr Hadi.
On Sunday, fighting and Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Shiite rebels struck across Yemen, officials said, as the United Nations said that Saudi Arabia had agreed to completely fund a $273.7 million appeal for emergency humanitarian aid to the county.
The UN issued the urgent appeal last week, saying it was needed to save lives and protect some 7.5 million people affected by the conflict and in dire need of medical supplies, safe drinking water, food assistance, emergency shelter and logistical support.
Purnima Kahsyap, humanitarian coordinator for the UN aid effort in Yemen, said that the UN was thankful to Saudi Arabia for covering the entire appeal cost, but urged all other partners to continue to provide assistance.
In the southern port city of Aden, Yemen’s second largest, pro-Hadi forces regained control Sunday of part of the coastline that had been held by Houthi forces. The gained positions allow them to attack the rebel-held airport and cut off supplies to anti-Hadi forces, they said.
Rebel forces also made another push to take the Dar Saad area, just north of Aden, but failed, the officials added.
* Reuters and Associated Press
Updated: April 19, 2015 04:00 AM